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Report: Most States Provide Parents Little Education Choice, Access

Most states make it difficult for parents to choose their children’s education, a new study by the Center for Education Reform (CER) reports.

The Center for Education Reform’s (CER) 2020 Parent Power! Index (PPI) is a “comprehensive analysis of states’ structural and behavioral policies that inform parents and allow them to make decisions regarding the education of their children, within or without any crisis,” the report states.

No state merited an A grade this year. Only three—Arizona, Florida, and Indiana—earned a B. Fifteen states and the District of Columbia received a C, and 25 states earned a D.

Alaska, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming all received F’s.

The ten top scoring states on the PPI were Arizona and Florida (tied for first), Indiana, Wisconsin, Minnesota, the District of Columbia, North Carolina, Ohio, Utah, and South Carolina.

Letter grades were also given in four subcategories: charter school accessibility, availability of choice programs, teacher quality, and innovation. Only three A’s in total were given out in the four categories, with Arizona receiving two for its charter network and choice programs and Florida receiving one for its choice programs.

Twenty-two states received a D or F grade for their charter school accessibility, 43 states earned a D or F for school choice, 18 received a D for their teacher quality, and 15 earned a D or F for their ability to innovate.

“It shouldn’t take a pandemic to trigger a demand for more and better educational opportunities for our kids,” Jeanne Allen, the founder and chief executive of the Center for Education Reform, said in an accompanying press release. “But that is precisely what’s happening across the country, as more and more parents find out that their ability to educate their kids is wholly dependent on a limited, finite, and often deficient set of offerings.

“Educating students outside a classroom requires 21st century innovation,” Allen stated. “Sadly, such innovation is lacking in all but a few states.”

According to the CER, the PPI measures all 50 states against the following four principles: whether the state “has policies in place that put students ahead of systems,” whether it “values the diversity of need and condition of every family,” whether it “provides vital accessible information,” and whether it “affords parents the power to exercise fundamental decisions regarding how their kids are educated.”

The PPI then assigns each state a letter grade depending on how well it achieved those four criteria.

New for 2020, the organization added an “innovation” metric to its PPI grade.

“With COVID-19 fundamentally disrupting how education operates, it was important to add an element related to how well states responded in the crisis,” the report notes.

Another measurement was added to focus on state Blaine Amendments, which are constitutional amendments in many states which prevent taxpayer money from being allocated to religiously affiliated schools.

“The Parent Power! Index exists to ensure that any parent, guardian, or caring adult understands how education is shaped, and what they can do to ensure it works for all kids,” said Allen continued. “By providing substantive information for parents and policymakers, we hope that the Parent Power! Index can guide significant changes in law and behavior.

“2020 has been a year of conflict and chaos,” Allen said. “By providing substantive information for parents and policymakers, we hope that the Parent Power! Index can guide significant changes in law and behavior—something that most states are typically hesitant to do for fear of offending their friends and colleagues in the status quo.”

The Center for Education Reform is a school choice advocacy organization founded in 1993 with a mission to “expand educational opportunities that lead to improved economic outcomes for all Americans, particularly our youth, ensuring that conditions are ripe for innovation, freedom and flexibility throughout U.S. education.” The organization began tabulating its Parent Power! Indexes in 1999.

Tim Benson
Tim Benson
Tim Benson joined The Heartland Institute in September 2015 as a policy analyst in the Government Relations Department.


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